I was lucky enough to be taken along to the International Conference on Thinking (ICOT) held in Wellington over the summer holidays. I say lucky as there were so many inspiring minds there, both in the education field and beyond, from New Zealand and overseas, from higher education as well as practitioners. I was humbled to hear such intelligent and inspirational people speak such as Edward de Bono, Steve Maharey and Ewan McIntosh. But I also valued the time talking to fellow educators and having the time to think, reflect and evaluate.
I have collected notes, Tweeted and favorited a number of Tweets, have a list of books about a mile long to read and another lengthy list of sites to peruse. I have LOTS of homework and many ideas to contemplate! This is the number one thing I am going to change as soon as I get back in the classroom though – I have endeavored to give children as much autonomy, freedom and control over their learning as possible but have neglected thinking. Allow me to explain. Whilst I work at systematically giving over more power to the students and teach them skills such a collaboration and problem solving, I have not explicitly taught thinking skills. This isn’t to say I haven’t used the likes of visible thinking routines from Harvard’s Project Zero, Lane Clark’s thinking tools, de Bono’s hats, graphic organisers and more. BUT I have failed to make these thinking tools/strategies/routines explicit to children. I plan to do this this year. I will make thinking strategies a part of my teaching as per usual but I will also tell the children the names of such strategies. I will then display these on the wall and, as the year progresses and the children start to “own” these strategies, get them to choose the strategies they use at any given time and explain why they have used such a strategy.
I realise that this is far from revolutionary and I have no idea why I haven’t does this sooner. This is more or less what I do when teaching reading skills and the students finish the year with a full reading skills toolbox they can use whenever they read. So why not thinking? We want to develop deep, critical, analytical, creative thinkers but they need to do these things without the teacher there saying, “well, for this problem you need to use a PMI chart.” When have you last heard someone say such a thing in ‘real life’?
If you missed ICOT, it would definitely be worth your while to have a look at the Twitter feed (#ICOT2013), the ICOT2013 shared Google doc and Edtalks as the videos taken at the conference come online.